Thanks to an email from a reader, comes this bizarre but all-too-common tale of an industry group supporting licensing to protect itself from competition:
Imagine you were a state legislator and some folks
asked you to pass a law making it a crime to give advice about paint
colors and throw pillows without a license. And imagine they told you
that the only people qualified to place large pieces of furniture in a
room are those who have gotten a college degree in interior design,
completed a two-year apprenticeship, and passed a national licensing
exam. And by the way, it is criminally misleading for people who
practice interior design to use that term without government permission.
You might stare at them incredulously for a moment,
then look down at your calendar and say, "Oh, I get it -- April Fool!"
These folks represent the American Society of Interior
Designers (ASID), an industry group whose members have waged a 30-year,
multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign to legislate their competitors
out of business. And those absurd restrictions on advice about paint
selection, throw pillows and furniture placement represent the actual
fruits of lobbying in places like Alabama, Nevada and Illinois, where
ASID and its local affiliates have peddled their snake-oil mantra that
"Every decision an interior designer makes affects life safety and
quality of life."
Legislative analysis by a half-dozen states that
rebuffed ASID's attempts to cartelize interior design -- including
Colorado, Washington and South Carolina -- has failed to support ASID's
claim that the location of your couch or the color of your bedroom
walls is literally a matter of life and death. As the Colorado
Department of Regulatory Agencies put it, there is "no evidence of
physical or financial harm being caused to . . . consumers by the
unregulated practice of interior designers."
I am not sure this even needs comment. I traditionally end my posts on licensing with this Milton Friedman quote:
The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.